Look for our next issue on 12/10!
The internet recently rejoiced upon hearing that popular Mike Judge cartoon, “King of the Hill,” is now available on Hulu. The series, which ran for thirteen seasons and concluded in 2010, features an ordinary Texas family thrown into several instances of ridiculous shenanigans thanks to oddball neighbors, while simultaneously speaking to social and cultural conversations going on in this country.
Funny how this cartoon, and several others like it, operates much like the sitcoms that have been the prime-time norm for decades now.
It would be a bold statement to claim that these mature versions of children’s programming have replaced the likes of “Cheers” or “Seinfeld,” but they have certainly grown in notoriety of the years. It would be appropriate to label the beginning of the movement with the inception of “The Simpsons,” a show that started in 1989 and continues to run today. It was also the first serious success that FOX’s television network had ever seen, which is likely what led to so many cartoon shows with different twists in the coming decade, like “Family Guy,” “Beavis and Butthead” and “South Park.”
Today, all the other major television providers have hopped on board the adult cartoon phenomenon. Netflix has several such shows, like “Bojack Horseman” and “Big Mouth,” and Cartoon Network has been operating their very own mature version of cartoons for years, creating hits like “Robot Chicken” and “Rick and Morty.”
So, what has led to the rise of the adult cartoon series? Taking a look at how viewership has changed recently is one possible answer.
When “The Simpsons” hit the air, it was a serious risk. Matt Groening, who created the series, came up with it after some success with a comic strip of his, and was relying off viewers that might have similar tastes in medium and humor to what Groening was familiar with. Today, it's hard to imagine popular culture without this hallmark cartoon, as it has influenced our opinions on comedy tremendously. The people who watch similar animated shows today don’t know what it's like to have television without this style of satire and sitcom, so it has become normalized and even placed above any other traditional form of television serial.
In fact, even children cartoons have become popular with older audiences in recent years. “Adventure Time,” a colorful fantasy-comedy, was originally intended to be viewed by adolescents but also found a following among college aged people. The same can be said of “Spongebob Squarepants,” a show that nearly any 20-something-year-old can quote in great lengths.
There are still plenty of people who will hate on animated shows of any variety, claiming them to be immature or useless. Still, they’ve undoubtedly found a large base to see them as an artform all their own, and even be elevated to award show status. It's unlikely to see the cartoon rush slow down, and it's even less likely to see that viewership stop either.